Seeing the tree goats in Morocco

Monday, 24 April 2017

Goats are my favourite animal (apart from Molly obvs) so before visiting Morocco, there were only really two things that I specifically wanted to see; Jemaa el-Fna and the tree goats. The square was amazing and we got to see it on the day we arrived but the tree goats were supposed to be located outside of Marrakech so I had high hopes for our visit outside of the city at the end of our trip.
We were driving for a couple of hours before low and behold, I finally spotted them! These crazy goats hop up into the tree and balance on a branch. It was totally mad to see, just on the side of the road but I was mesmerized and so excited. Apparently I had been talking about it more than I realised because everyone cheered me off of the bus to take some photos which of course I sent straight to Andrew, my parents and anyone else who would listen. 
Argan trees only grow there in Morocco and no one knows why. They have tried to plant them around the world but they just won't grow so that’s why argan oil is so expensive and also highly sought after; not just by us but obviously the goats love the fruit which is why they are up in the trees in the first place. It is rumored that the goats are where the process of creating argan oil begins; although the women at Coopérative Marjana, (the argan oil cooperative that we were off to visit) collect the seed by hand rather than using ones that the goats have passed which results in a much higher quality oil.
At the cooperative, we got to see how the fruit is turned into oil. As we entered the room that they were all working in, the women started to let out some really strange high pitched noises. None of us really knew what was happening but I later found out that this was called barwalá or youyou and it’s just a friendly thing which all added to the atmosphere I guess. We watched as the women all sat together on the floor hammering away at the seeds. The first step was to separate the skin from the nut and then again to crack the seed out of its shell. Behind a glass screen to stop any contamination, the seed was then grinded into a pulp, mixed with a little bit of water and squeezed to extract its oil.

And so another life goal was ticked off my list!
 *Huge thanks to Visit Morocco inviting me along on this trip

A Magical Afternoon in Marrakech Medina

Monday, 3 April 2017

Morocco, and Marrakech in particular has been on my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember and last week, I was finally able to visit. Whilst I was excited to see the inside of the beautiful riads and eat as much of the delicious food as I could, the one place that I have dreamed of visiting was Jemaa el-Fna and the souks.

As we left our hotel (we were staying at Movenpick Mansour Eddhabi) and drove closer, the big roads began to get narrower and narrower until we were driving in and out of side roads and alleys full of little hole in the wall shops.

We were dropped off just outside the entrance to the souks and paired up with a guide. Our guy was called Sami and he was super chilled. Walking ahead, he easily navigated us through the maze of stalls as we all trailed behind; stopping in amazement as we peered into each stall. He stopped every so often to let us catch up although we were all cautious to keep an eye on him because if we got lost in there we'd never get ourselves out.

The whole market had a very Arabian nights feel to it. Each street was different whether it was intricate lanterns and men melting metal in their shops, mounds of spice piled up high or leather slippers hanging down from the ceiling. You smell those before you saw them! The market is an experience for all of your senses; if you aren't marveling at all of the color, then you are jumping out of the way of a motorbike or trying to ignore the men shouting across for you to come into their shops. It's a very overwhelming experience, but it was absolutely incredible as well!
As the market opened out, we finished the souks at a spice stall with all sorts of fragrant, colourful powders piled high. We stopped to look and the man at the stall started mixing up potions and passing around samples for us to smell. We left with a bar of soap and a bag of eucalyptus crystals.
The end of the Medina brought us out to the most famous mosque in Marrakech just as the sun was starting to set. It was one of those moments; watching the sun set over the Koutoubia as we listened to the men inside praying on the loud speaker over the busy streets of Marrakech, that I will remember forever.
A bit further down we finally made it to Jemaa el-Fna squre and it was unlike anywhere I have ever seen before. A UNESCO Heritage site, the huge square was full of not only more market stands but storytellers and henna artists too. Smoke from the food stalls and the enchanting songs of the snake charmers filled the air as we walked through. Honestly, it was chaos but what a magical place. We made our way up to the top of Cafe De France and with a cup of ridiculously sugary tea watched as the bright blue sky changed to a fiery red and yellow over the madness below.

Dinner later on was a feast of traditional Moroccan food at La Salama. Through a hidden door and up the dark staircase on a red carpet lined with tea light candles, we sat down for tagines with cous cous as belly dancers weaved around us just like the motorbikes before, with trays full of candles on their heads (the style of dance is called Raks al shamadan). After the meal we all got up to join in before heading up to their roof terrace for dessert over looking the square. It was the perfect end to a truly magical day.
*Huge thanks to Visit Morocco for taking me on this bucket list trip

Five Things To Do On a weekend In Hamburg

Monday, 27 March 2017

I’m on a mission to make my way around Europe this year and with a full time job, that means making the most of my weekends and my great location here in London. Gdasnk was my first trip of the year which I did in 36 hours and Hamburg, a couple of weeks later was my second. This one was for Andrews’s birthday so I was happy to take the Friday off although if you got up at a reasonable hour, rather than midday like him and the boys, then these five things could easily be done in less time, getting you back home ready for work on Monday morning.

Visit Speicherstadt
Speicherstadt in Hamburg is the largest warehouse district in the world and we actually kind of did this one by accident. We walked past it on our way to Minature Wunderland and it looked so pretty that we stopped off and took a photo, little did we know that it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Anyway, definitely worth stopping by for a look - the tall red brick buildings make for a great Instagram photo and apparently, that’s all that matters to us millennials! (Schofields commissioned this research and they've got a point)
Eat at the Groeniger Restaurant
It's a traditional German beer house and the most German thing we did all weekend. Hop on the U1 train and get off at Meßberg station, then it’s just across the road. Inside, we ordered a 10 litre barrel of their home brewed beer (€79) which sat on a stool at the end of our table; that kept the boys going for a few hours!

The menu was small and very meaty but there was only one dish that anyone wanted: the Gröninger Brauerschmaus (Brewers Feast.) It’s a sharing board filled with a selection of sausages, meatloaf, pork belly and Kasseler as well as speckkartoffelsalat (potato salad), coleslaw and radishes (which of course no one touched!) We ordered for eight and it was over a meter long when it arrived. You need at least four in the group to order and it costs €17 per person.
Climb St Michaels Church
Or in our case, get the lift to the top. St Michael Church is probably the most famous church in Hamburg and from the top (106 meters up), you have the most incredible view over the whole of the city. Again, we hopped on the train and stopped off a couple of minutes’ walk away. We actually did this on our way back to the airport; seeing the view from the top didn’t take us long although there was a lot more of the church and the crypt below to explore if you wanted to. It costs around €4 to go up to the top and €6 to see the crypt below.
Party at the Reeperbahn
We went on a bar crawl with our hostel and I would totally recommend it. Even though there were already eight of us, it was great to meet some other people and of course to see where was good from a local’s perspective. We made friends and met up again the next evening.

The nightlife itself was great, the music was a good mix of current chart music and 90’s stuff, the drinks were cheap and the clubs were still going strong when we left at 5am with a slice of pizza.
Visit Miniatur Wunderland
This place is one of Hamburg’s biggest attractions so we thought we’d better visit. It cost us €13 each to buy tickets there, for entry into the exhibition. It’s a model world complete with tiny people, working trains (the largest model railway in the world don’t you know) and even its own lake. A few of us whizzed around and saw it all in an hour while the rest of the boys spent much longer having a proper look at each country. We went on a Saturday afternoon and it was very crowded.

Minature Wunderland is in a great location near the docks with the Hamburg Dungeons next door – they do English tours at 10am if you fancied that as well. Take the U3 train to Baumwall.
*Information provided from a press release by Schofields
Have you ever been to Hamburg?

Premium Room at YOTEL Gatwick

Monday, 20 March 2017

I often find myself in a bit of a situation when I travel, especially when it's an early or a late flight. From Stanstead, it's literally 15 minutes in the car but any other airport in London is a bit harder. The trains don’t run that early so trains aren't an option, I have toyed with the idea of getting a cab but that also means getting up at a ridiculous hour so I've resided that staying nearby in a hotel is usually the best bet. When I started searching, I assumed that I’d still have to get to the airport from the hotel but it’d be five minutes rather than 90; that wasn’t the case when I stayed at YOTEL last year because it was actually inside the airport! If that’s not convenience for you, then I don’t know what is!
I came across YOTEL by chance and I’ll be honest, I only clicked on it because I thought it was some kind of sushi emporium but apparently not. They have the same founder but there was no sushi here, instead I found a hotel made up of sleeping pod style rooms underneath the Gatwick South terminal.  It's a pay by hour system with a minimum stay of 4 hours at £34, making it perfect for me to book in from 7pm to leave 3am. Alot of people also use it to have somewhere to rest between connecting flights.
After a full day at work and battling through Victoria station at 6pm with a suitcase, I was relieved to arrive at the airport and be sat on the bed in my room within ten minutes of getting off of the Gatwick Express! Check-in at reception or “Mission Control” as they called it was very speedy and the guys was friendly and thorough about how it all works. He explained how to use the lights and the bed and sent me off down the corridor to my room with an alarm clock and another bottle of water in tow.
I stayed in a premium room and I was surprised by just how well these little pods are looked after; crisp white sheets, toilet paper was folded and the rest of the bathroom was one of the most sparkling spotless I have ever seen. The room is 110 sqft but somehow manages to fit in everything you need. The bathroom was actually the perfect size and the rest of the room was absolutely perfect once you got used to it. Everything was in its place, the bed electronically folds up and down so when you are not sleeping, it doubles as a comfy sofa to watch TV on. There is also a fold up desk and chair in case you want to get some work done with the free Wi-Fi! Along with complementary tea, coffee and bottles of water from reception, a full length mirror with a couple of hangers, it had everything I needed.
I settled down for the evening on the fluffy bed with my M&S salad, a tube of pringles and the GBBO Final! Not a bad way to spend an evening pre-flight!
*Thank you to YOTEL for hosting me. My review is 100% my honest opinion

The Generator Hostel, London

Monday, 13 March 2017

You might be wondering why I was staying at a hostel when I live here so let me explain! The 28th of Feb was a busy day this year; Pancake Day, obviously but it was also National Public Sleeping Day (whatever that means) so the guys at The Generator invited a bunch of us bloggers to come and celebrate.
The Generator is in a great location, not only for a traveler coming from St Pancras but for me coming from work, it was 20 minute walk (Tottenham court road if anyone cares.) The hostel has a street front which makes it very easy to find -  you have to walk down the little alley next to it which brings you to the hostel itself. I was first to arrive and very pleased when the lady at reception told me I’d been given a bottom bunk. All about the bottom bunk; Do you guys have a preference?
Whoever deals with their playlist has amazing taste in music because the 90's were the soundtrack to our evening and everyone loved it. Music was playing loud all night through reception and the common areas; amazingly you couldn’t hear any of it from inside the room. I was staying in room 105 which is on the same floor and probably as close to reception as you can get. Our 8 bed dorm was spacious and light with a sink in the corner and two bathrooms, each with a toilet, sink and two showers just outside.
According to the website, these 8 bed dorms don’t exist but a similar 10 bed ones costs £12 per night (although that price changes every time I check - when I checked for a Tuesday night in April, it was £22). The beds were clean and comfortable and there were big storage lockers under them although you need to bring your own lock. Connecting to the wifi was easy with just my name and email but when I set about trying to charge my phone before everyone else arrived, I was shocked to find that there were only two plug sockets in the room! I went to inquire at reception and they quickly brought us an extension lead so it wasn't a problem. Outside of the room, there were so many sockets - I guess its all about bringing people out of their rooms, The Generator are all about getting people talking.

When the other girls arrived, we popped open the champagne that the team had left for us and made our way to the cinema style common room. By now the whole place was packed, it was a Tuesday night and the hostel was totally full. We had a look around the bar, the food area and the coffee/snack area and there were people everywhere. I know I’ve only stayed in 4 hostels so far but this one was by far the biggest and most social.

The evening was spent making cocktails; and then making pancakes before going out for some drinks! They had organised a private bar crawl for us and while most of the girls stayed at the hostel, Rosie, Kristy and Kristina, the three who I was sharing a dorm with were up for a night out! We caught a bus to Camden and partied the night away.

I woke up pretty early since none of us thought to close the curtains when we rolled in at 2am but it was a very comfortable night’s sleep. In the morning we had a cooked breakfast. I went for the bagel benedict (£6.50) which was just what I needed after the night before; the girls had a fry up which cost the same. After that, we handed in the keys and that was that; my little overnight stay ended with a walk back to the office. 
 *The Generator hosted me although all thoughts are my own
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